Experts say cougar sightings no cause for alarm 

At least 13 mountain lions have been sighted in San Mateo County since January, including attacks on a deer and a goat, prompting county officials to close parks at one point. But some officials say it is not an increase in activity by the cougars, but an increase in people being outside.

Jeff Norris, district coordinator with the San Mateo County Department of Emergency Services, said mountain lions are out hunting and roaming all year long. It is human habits that change.

“In the winter, we hunker down inside when it’s cold,” he said. “But in the summer, the days are longer and we are outside longer.”

Most sightings have occurred in the western portion of San Mateo County, where the terrain is hilly and full of trees. Norris said many of the sightings reported occur in the animal’s natural habitat.

“One of our prior lieutenants said one of these days, we’re going to get a phone call from a mountain lion saying there are people in his backyard,” he said. “We are the ones moving within the natural environment where mountain lions live.”

Sightings since January have been reported in La Honda, Moss Beach, Pescadero, Portola Valley, Woodside and Redwood City.

In February, county officials temporarily closed several parks in response to a number of sightings involving what were described as aggressive cats by hikers in the Pescadero Creek County Park near La Honda.

According to the Department of Fish and Game, more than half of California is mountain lion territory. The animal generally exists where deer are found, and it is in the cat’s nature to avoid humans.

Norris could not recall a time when a mountain lion attacked a human, calling such an incident “rare.”

He did say several years ago, a cub wandered into downtown San Mateo, but it didn’t stay long.

“It was only captured by security camera,” he said. “No human saw it.”

Norris said mountain lions are cats and by nature they roam. If they end up in unfamiliar and unsatisfactory territory, they leave.

He did say more people get hurt by deer.

“Cars hit them or while hiking people aren’t afraid of deer so they approach and it runs away knocking over the person,” he said.

Norris did warn, however, that anyone entering the wilderness should be should be aware of their surroundings.

Bay City News contributed to this report.


Safety in mountain lion country

The Department of Fish and Game offers tips when entering mountain lion territory.

  • Do not hike, bike or jog alone.
  • Avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active — dawn, dusk and at night.
  • Keep a close watch on small children.
  • Do not approach a mountain lion.
  • If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects.

Source: Department of Fish and Game

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